The question has been asked: Was a member of the famous von Trapp ‘Sound of Music’ family on the E-Course teacher training program in Rabaul, New Guinea. The answer is ‘yes’ and here’s the story.
Ingrid Jackson writes: Maria von Trapp, who completed the fourth E-Course, was the stepdaughter of the Maria of Sound of Music fame. Her autobiography ‘Maria’, which I bought in 1973 and still possess, includes two Papua New Guinea chapters - ‘A New Mission’ and ‘The Native Chant’ – together with a photo ‘Maria and native child’ [left].
In 1956 the Trapp Family Singers had toured Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Their Sydney host was Archbishop Carboni, the Vatican’s representative in this aprt of the world. The archbishop was reportedly “very much concerned about the great success Communist agents were having all over that vast territory” and the von Trapps promised him they would go to the islands and start lay missionary work.
In 1957 Maria von Trapp (the one depicted by Julie Andrews) toured PNG with her friend, Franz Wasner, to scope the project. Father Wasner and Maria had jointly started the Trapp Family Singers in 1936. Maria visited Budoya, or Bwaioia, on Fergusson Island, Rabaul, Wewak, the Sepik and the Highlands.
Stepdaughter Maria (b 1914) and children Rosemarie (b 1929) and Johannes (b 1939) had just arrived in PNG. Maria and Rosmarie taught "the little ones" and tended the sick in villages while, among other chores, Johannes built a church and two schoolhouses. He remained in PNG for four years, Rosmarie for five and Maria for a dedicated 30.
Maria now lives in Stowe, Vermont, in the USA. Rosemarie continues to travel extensively as a missionary. And Johannes runs the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.
Noel Ryan posted this comment on ASOPA PEOPLE a couple of months back: Maria [seen on album cover with piano accordion], a Catholic missionary, was on our 4th E-Course. A book, ‘The Trapp Family on Wheels’, tells briefly of Maria, Rosmarie and Johannes joining the mission at Budoya (Bwaioia) on Fergusson Island.
Maria is now 92 and living at the Trapp family lodge in Vermont. I didn't know her background when I was on the E-Course, where she was a nice unassuming lady of 47. She kept mainly with the older folk; our interest was in getting down to the Cosmo and the Xavier dances. It wasn't until about 1966 when I saw ‘The Sound of Music’ that I realised who she was.
I wrote to Maria a few months ago and she replied saying she was thrilled to receive the first letter she'd ever got from a fellow E-Courser.